Doctors discuss health concerns as more southern Arizona students return to classroom

(KMOV)
Published: Jul. 21, 2022 at 6:39 PM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - More southern Arizona students are gearing up to return to school.

Many are hoping for a return to normal, but health experts warn it is no time to let your guard down.

COVID-19 is not the only concern.

Millions of children have missed out on their regular vaccinations. This means we could see other diseases, some that have all been eliminated, become more common this year.

“This surge for us, when kids are all separated and largely at home with their families and now all being back to school together is worrisome,” said pediatrician Dr. Sandy Herron. “We’re gearing up for a very busy August and September.”

Her office has been busy with wellness checks and COVID-19 cases. Tanque Verde Pediatrics diagnoses about 40 cases per week, but a lot of positive cases from home tests aren’t being reported.

“This variant is very infectious,” she said. “We’re seeing kids that are still testing positive at Day 8, 9 and 10, which we did not see with prior variants.”

Herron said many of her patients are feeling pandemic fatigue and she thinks that’s why so many, about 11 million, have also missed their routine immunizations.

“It means we have to be on the lookout for measles and we have to be on the lookout for pertussis,” she said. “We have to be on the lookout for chickenpox. Those kind of things that, with a good vaccination rate, we largely do not see in our office. We’re going to be having to pay attention for as school gets back in session.”

And though many are hoping to return to normalcy this year, Pima County Health Department Director Dr. Theresa Cullen said we can’t let up on mitigation measures. The PCHD is recommending masking indoors for school districts.

“We are in a very accelerated stage of transmission right now,” Cullen said. “We’re seeing a significant number of cases, almost 200 per 100,000.”

Routine immunizations are low and COVID-19 vaccinations for the younger age groups aren’t where Cullen hoped they would be by now.

“Between the 5- and 9 year-olds, we’re at about 57% have gotten one vaccine. In the 6 months up to five, we are seeing a fairly limited uptick. We have about 3-4% of kids in that age group that have been immunized,” she said.

Cullen and Herron both said that masking is going to be key to keeping kids in school safely.

Aside from getting routine immunizations at your child’s regular pediatrician’s office, you can also get them at county sites.

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